Our Shopping Adventure in the Land of Dangerous, Misogynistic Shoes for Little Girls

We go to the mall less often than we get our teeth cleaned.  In fact, while we were on an unplanned excursion to the bastion of all that is wrong with America yesterday (I might be a bit dramatic about this topic), we spent a good deal of our time trying to figure out the last time we had been there.  The closest we could come was sometime when my youngest was five (She’ll be seven this year).

This trip was brought to us by the ridiculous dearth of decent shoes for girls out there.  We tried all the locally owned stores, but I could not stomach the extra twenty to thirty dollars we’d be paying per rapidly growing child.

We tried the local big box stores, but they made me think of this editorial by LZ Granderson of CNN about the current state of clothing available for young girls.***


Are you with me?

It is no better when it comes to shoes.  All of the shoes we found at the big box stores look like 1) they will injure the wearer and 2) the wearer, all six or seven years of her, is desperately trying to channel Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City, which makes it pretty impossible for the child to enjoy the full range of movement a child should enjoy.

People, there is a tremendous difference between sparkly pink glitter and tacky, slippery gold lamay circa 1977 and Studio 54!!  At least that is what my youngest daughter expressed (in essence) when she stood in a certain shoe store, where the promise is that one will pay less, and screamed, “I just want my shoes to be sparkly AND comfortable!  This isn’t sparkly!  It’s shiny, but it’s not sparkly!  Where are the sparkly shoes that I can ride my bike in?  Where, Mamma, where?”

So we ventured out to the damn mall (See what a mall does to me?).  We went into one of the few stores that still consistently sells clothes that little girls can wear without being mistaken for the cast of Toddlers & Tiaras.  But, aye, here’s the rub: their shoes were indeed sparkly, but they were also all constructed so that no little girl could possibly be comfortable walking, much less running, in them.

I asked the sales lady, “Where are the more athletic shoes?”
She looked at me with a slightly puzzled expression.  “For boys, you mean?”
“No. No.  Not for boys.  For girls.  You know, like those hybrid sandal and tennis shoe combos.”
“Uh.  Well, we only have athletic shoes for the boys.  We have dress shoes for the girls.”

That’s right.  It’s 2011.  And they only have athletic shoes for the boys, but goody for my girls — they have dress shoes for them!

I had to laugh when both my girls scoffed, followed by Rhubarb walking backwards out the door, muttering something like, “They don’t have athletic shoes for girls.  What the heck!  What am I supposed to wear when I beat my brother in races then?  And can’t my little sister find just one pair of pink, sparkly shoes that she can wear while biking or running around at the park?  A little girl should be able to be pink and sparkly and still kick a ball around.”

(She might get her rants from her mother.  Just a little.)

In the end, we ventured into the LL Bean store (which had been there three years, despite the fact that we thought it brand new) and found three pairs of sort of hybrid sandal/athletic shoes that suited each of my little patrons.  They were more expensive than what I would have paid for any of the disco shoes, but it was worth it.  Their arches are supported and they have full range of movement in them — all of them — even the girls.  And the littlest pair is indeed pink, though sadly, not even a little bit sparkly.

And I, for one, am now one of LL Bean’s biggest fans!

(I get nothing from the LL Bean people, but were they to send me one of their kayaks, the orange one, as a thank you, I would not send it back.)

***Later, I found this post (a quite pointed and fervent criticism) and this post (an analytical criticism) both challenging the motives behind Granderson’s arguments — the consideration that really he is criticizing MOMS and that it is HE who is sexualizing little girls — and it got me thinking, wondering, for example, what is really the problem?  That the clothes are too adult and sexual?  Or that the people judging the children in such clothes are actually sexualizing the children?

The content of the newer posts listed above did move me to change some of my post, in case you are wondering.

Mostly, they made me think about the fact that it is a luxury that I can afford to shop around to buy clothes and shoes for my kids that are suitable for their needs.  It’s not moms who should be blamed for these clothes and shoes; it’s the manufacturers and retailers — and those of us who are fortunate enough to purchase our kids’ clothing and shoes elsewhere SHOULD vote with our dollars and also do a little letter-writing/blog-writing/etc. to let them know how we feel.